Would taxing sugar halt the diabetes epidemic?

Here's an article discussing a paper published in the Journal Nature yesterday.

Summing up the paper the article says "Like alcohol and tobacco, sugar is a toxic, addictive substance that should be highly regulated with taxes, laws on where and to whom it can be advertised, and even age-restricted sales, says a team of UCSF scientists."

Here's another quote concerning the cause of T2. "It's sugar, not obesity, that is the real health threat, Lustig and his co-authors - public health experts Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis - say in their paper. They note that studies show 20 percent of obese people have normal metabolism and no ill health effects resulting from their weight, while 40 percent of normal-weight people have metabolic problems that can lead to diabetes and heart disease. They contend that sugar consumption is the cause.".........'The gestalt shift is maybe obesity is just a marker for the rise in chronic disease worldwide, and in fact metabolic syndrome, caused by excessive sugar consumption, is the real culprit,' said Schmidt, a health policy professor who focuses on alcohol and addiction research."

Although I'm not a big fan of social engineering thru taxing at least this is something from the popular press that shows a little more understanding of T2 as opposed to the recent Paula Deen media storm. I would also note that as usual the article make no distinction between T1 and T2.

I would not want the government intruding into what I can and cannot eat. Where does it end when another study comes along? All for education at all levels of society but another tax on the food product itself, not for me.

I don't think there are that many taxes on food, I think that it's sort of the opposite. I have read "Why We Get Fat" and about 2/3 of "Good Calories Bad Calories", laying out the history of the nutrition science. While the author doesn't mention it, the move away from fat and towards carbs in AHA/ AMA/ FDA food "guidelines" also coincided with a move towards agricultural subsidy on the political front, as the family farm economy of the early 20th century moved in new directions. To me, it seems a if there'd be a connection of some sort there, maybe a "soft" one rather than a sinister plot to obesify society which, nonetheless, seems to have worked?

I suspect that one might be able to accomplish a goal of moving up food prices without raising "taxes" but by cutting subsidies and tax breaks for farming?

Actually the price of sugar would go down if the government got out because the domestic sugar industry is protected by tariffs. I also read recently that the sugar industry has an interest in maintaining the trade embargo on Cuba because they would flood the market with cheap sugar if the embargo were lifted.

Like you I'm not much on conspiracy theories, but subsidies do produce surpluses that must be disposed of. Follow the money.

Actually, I think the price of sugar would go up if the government got out. I think sugar, wheat, corn and soybeans are heavily subsidized enough that it creates a huge (unhealthy) preference in our food supply chain.

I would rather that the government subsidize locally grown sustainable sources of meat, fruits and vegetables.

Tax on sugar...then there would be a new government agency the sugar police (revenuers), they could wear bright colorful suites...you know like the clowns that came up with this idea.

Oh you said there was no distinction between T1 and T2]...that's because it's a secret when this new program starts they will run a genetic test at berth and if we have the T1 genotype they can just make us into little green pills and feed them to the masses. This will fix the big ($ money ) drain we cause on the healthcare system...You know we will never be good sugar tax generators why keep us around.

"Age-restricted sales"....I guess they'll be carding kids buying candy bars. Crazy.

I just heard a teaser for our noon news that someone has discovered that sugar is bad for us!! Can't wait to hear the story. I guess the 'experts' wanting a sugar tax are quite forward-thinking as they already knew it? LOL

On topic, I'm not a bit in favor of using taxes to control the population's behavior. Smacks of big brother.

I remember growing up in the 60s and 70s how they used to tell us that if we eat too much sugar, we would get diabetes. Then, I was taught, later, that eating sugar does not cause diabetes.

Now, eating sugar does cause diabetes, T2 diabetes, but not really because it's genetic.

I really wish that the concept of gene x environment interaction could be explained in a blurb like it's genes or it's environment can be.

That's really the heart of the problem FHS. The more that is known about T2, the more complicated it's causes become, which makes for a terrible soundbite.

All we need for this is Max Headroom.


I hate that this is true, but taxing sugar would be a tax on the poor. An unfair tax on the people that struggle to buy whole foods and turn to the processed, sugar-loaded, packaged goods that are sold to them at a price where they can afford to put food in front of their family's faces.

Why is it cheaper for me to buy a banana cream pie than a dozen bananas?

What if our government offered incentives to companies that figured out ways to offer healthy options at the same prices as the crap they are producing now?

Do the taxes on cigarettes and alcohol reduce consumption, I think so but I am not sure

I'm all for taxes for things for which there is a DIRECT AND OBVIOUS correlation and doesn't involve something you need to survive. Smoking, for example - you don't need cigarettes to survive and we KNOW they cause lung cancer. When smokers get lung cancer, the costs of their disease are passed on to the rest of society. If there's something you can prevent that costs society money, I'm ok with the cause being taxed.

However, in the arena of food and T2 diabetes, things get a little more complicated. We don't know all the factors that cause T2 diabetes (the focus of this effort, I'm assuming). My mother's diet is filled with unnecessary sugars and carbs (she can consume a whole package of cookies in one sitting). She's never been even close to overweight and her BG is fine every time I test it (which I do frequently, because I'm convinced that she's a T2 just waiting to happen). Ok, so she's active, I'll give her that, but still...Then there's a good friend of mine, a middle-aged man who has always eaten a pretty healthy diet (I would say he's fairly health conscious), and even did South Beach for a number of years in an effort to lose a couple of pounds (he wasn't really overweight to begin with, but just concerned he was getting a bit of a bulge). He's also VERY active, always doing some gym workout or other physical activity. Last year, he was diagnosed as T2.

I know these are just two cases, but clearly diet isn't the only causal factor with T2D. There are obviously other things going on and if we can't identify those "other things," I think we should be a little hesitant to start taxing everything.

The quick answer as I see it is "NO" it is just more smoke and mirrors!! the first question I have is "what will be next"?, meat?,bread? etc.....I can see the black market starting now...NO MORE GOVERNMENT IN OUR LIVES....

another fleeting thought, what happens to the tax money collected? I would be will to at least talk about it, if the funds were to go to "diabetes only" research and support.

Here's another newspaper piece . Anthony, this article says that the price of a can of soda would have to double in order for it to curb consumption. It also says that sugar consumption worldwide has tripled in the past 50 years.

I firmly believe that living in a free country means we are also free to make bad decisions and do dumb things, in fact being flawed humans it's to be expected. So a tax is a bad idea IMHO, and yet I think there is a real problem here. How about a warning label ala cigarettes? Boy that would sure stir up the lobbyists on K street.

Well, I really can't think of a situation where the government has tried to control commerce or run an "enterprise" that actually works and does not cause problems. The Postal Service? Medicare? Forcing banks to write sub-prime mortgages? Somebody stop me. Can you name an instance that is not dysfunctional at best? Besides, as bad as sugar is it's not the only problem and in reality the concept is a non starter. Don't get me wrong, there are things that need to be legislated and regulated, but things done to drive behaviors "social engineering" are always bad news and frought with problems. Never ending problems. Until they are repealed that is. Can anyone say "Prohibition"?

Well stated Randy.